Swirling rhetoric

Lies, manipulations, hatred should not resume after Sandy

As disastrous as Hurricane Sandy is proving to be, she is drowning out at least some of the most vitriolic campaigning of the season. No doubt the barrage will resume after Sandy weakens, but for now, at least, politicians have realized that fact-free bickering is not what residents of the Eastern Seaboard most want to hear. People who are worried that their neighborhoods or even their communities might be devastated, with destruction threatening schools, utilities, roads and bridges, as well as homes, don’t want to believe that the next president of the United States is evil incarnate.

Neither major-party candidate is, of course. They have different philosophies, different sets of influences and different goals — substantive differences upon which voters should base their decision — but despite the shrill tone of the propaganda distributed on their behalf, neither wants to drive the nation into bankruptcy or the middle class out of existence. When they’re not running for election, both of them are decent men.

Even before Sandy began swirling far out in the Atlantic, hardly anyone truly was listening to substance of the nastiness. Most voters, huge majorities in each party, had already made up their minds, and almost nothing anyone could possibly say would sway them.

Some recognized the rhetoric for what it was — mostly nonsense, anchored only by tiny, well-spun grains of truth — and ignored it from the beginning. Many Americans are adept at separating fact from fiction and are not inclined to allow themselves to be manipulated

Others ate up what their own party was serving them, swallowing a lot of it whole, and expressed outrage at the lies being proffered by people trying to ruin this country, state, county, etc. For them, the negativity has been largely recreational.

But did many people change their minds and vote differently than they had planned to vote in mid-summer? Very, very few.

Hurricane Sandy gives presidential candidates an opportunity to behave presidentially. They can express concern for those affected by the storm. They can acknowledge that some circumstances are beyond the ability of individuals to mitigate. They can discuss the appropriate role of government in disaster recovery. They should not, under any circumstances, pose for photo ops while filling sandbags and boarding up windows.

And when Sandy spins down into silence, they can decline to rejoin the frenzy, and discourage their supporters from whipping it back up as well.

Manipulation, intimidation, obfuscation and downright lies should have no place in American politics. We are better than that. Elections should be won on principles, not purchased with Super PAC dollars.

Politicians and political machines have demonstrated no interest in changing the tone of this election. Voters could. They behave civilly in personal conversations, in letters to the editor, and at the polls. They can vote carefully and sensibly and not allow themselves to be swayed by scare tactics.

The United States of America is better than this. Voters are smarter than this. Politicians have more to offer than this.

Now, in the face of a hurricane, would be a good time to clean up our political act.